Well-known Christian philosopher Douglas Groothuis evaluates the dominionism charge levied by the left-wing media against Michele Bachmann.
In the August 15 issue of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza asserts that Bachmann has been ideologically shaped by “exotic” thinkers of the dominionist stripe who pose a threat to our secular political institutions. The piece—and much of the subsequent media reaction—is a calamity of confusion, conflation, and obfuscation.
Lizza notes that Bachmann was influenced by the writings of Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-84), an evangelical minister, theologian, and philosopher. Schaeffer, along with the contemporary writer Nancy Pearcey and others, are “dominionists.” That is, they believe that “Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy secular institutions until Christ returns.” Worse yet, Schaeffer, in A Christian Manifesto (1981), supposedly “argued for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe vs. Wade isn’t reversed.” Lizza also writes of the influence of the prolific author Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001), who advocated “a pure Christian theocracy in which Old Testament law…would be instituted.” Bachman is allegedly thick as thieves with all these “exotic” subversives—and should be exposed as such.
Having read reams of books from all these authors (and every book by Schaeffer) over the last thirty-five years, as well as having taught many of these books at the graduate level, I assign Mr. Lizza the grade of “F.” Consider four reasons.
Here is one of the four reasons.
Third, the key Christian influences on Bachman are not Rushdoony and his followers, but Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey. Schaeffer referred to Rushdoony’s views on mandating biblical law as “insanity,” and never sanctioned any form of theocracy. (The name “Rushdoony” does not even appear in the index of Schaeffer’s five-volume collected works.) Schaeffer explicitly condemned theocracy in A Christian Manifesto (p. 120-1). Nor did he call for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe V. Wade were not overturned. Schaeffer rather explained various ways of resisting tyranny according to a Christian worldview and in light of church history. He saw “civil disobedience” (his phrase) as a last resort and did not stipulate any specific conditions under which it would be advisable in America. In fact, Schaeffer worried (on p. 126) that speaking of civil disobedience is “frightening because there are so many kooky people around.” Further, “anarchy is never appropriate.”
Amazing. I wonder if Lizza is opposed to the very same “civil disobedience” advocated by Martin Luther King. Maybe he hasn’t ever heard of King, or read his letter from a Birmingham jail. I don’t know what people learn in journalism school. Maybe they don’t learn anything except what their professors believe, and how to parrot it on demand.
Click through and read the whole thing to get all four points.
That’s a philosopher’s evaluation, how about a historian?
Richard Weikart, professor of History at California State University, Stanilaus, evaluates Ryan Lizza’s article. (H/T Uncommon Descent)
In his recent New Yorker article and NPR interview, Ryan Lizza tries to evoke fear of Michele Bachmann by alleging that she has been heavily influenced by “dominionism.”
The two chief culprits allegedly spreading this pernicious dominionism to Bachmann and others are the prominent Christian intellectuals Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey.
Accusing Schaeffer and Pearcey of peddling dominionism – and associating Bachman with it – is a serious charge, since Lizza defines it as those who believe: “Christians, and Christians alone, are biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.” Sounds like theocracy to me.
Aside from the fact that Lizza never produces any quotations from Bachmann showing that she endorses dominionism, does his guilt-by-association argument hold any water? Were Schaeffer and Pearcey tainted by dominionism?
As an undergraduate in the late 1970s I read just about everything that Schaeffer wrote. I read Schaeffer’s “A Christian Manifesto” (1981), his most political book, as soon as it was published. Even though I do not agree with Schaeffer’s position on political activism therein, it is hard to see how he could have stated his opposition to theocracy more plainly.
He stated, “First, we must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of theocracy. Let me say that with great emphasis.” In the next paragraph he argued, “There is no New Testament basis for a linking of church and state until Christ, the King returns.”
He then criticized the Roman emperors Constantine and Theodosius for merging church and state, calling it a mistake causing “great confusion.” Schaeffer was a strong opponent of theocracy (and thus dominionism), Lizza’s revisionist history notwithstanding.
Casting Nancy Pearcey as an evil dominionist influence on Bachmann, as Lizza does, is even more bizarre. By way of full disclosure, I have met and corresponded with Pearcey, and she even sent me her manuscript, “Total Truth” – the one that Bachmann mentioned as important – before it was published. Though I don’t agree with all of Pearcey’s political views, nowhere have I seen even a hint that she thinks Christians should shoulder everyone else aside to take sole control of the government, economy or culture.
Indeed Pearcey believes that Christians should apply their worldview to every facet of their lives, including politics, but one of these Christian insights she insists on is that Christians should be servants to others.
Now that we know that Lizza is misrepresenting the facts about these Christian scholars, we have to find out out why he is doing it. And that’s a tall order. So let’s just see how widespread media bias is, and then try to construct a hypothesis about why it is so widespread.
A closer look at media bias
Here’s a UCLA study on media bias.
Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.
Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.
The most centrist outlet proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” were a close second and third.
“Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill,” Groseclose said. “If these newscasters weren’t centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators.”
The fourth most centrist outlet was “Special Report With Brit Hume” on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.
“If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox’s ‘Special Report’ as ABC’s ‘World News’ and NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news,” said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.”
Here’s a Harvard University study on media bias.
The programming studied on Fox News offered a somewhat more positive picture… of Republicans and more negative one of Democrats compared with other media outlets. Fox News stories about a Republican candidate were most likely to be neutral (47%), with the remainder more positive than negative (32% vs. 21% negative). The bulk of that positive coverage went to Giuliani (44% positive), while McCain still suffered from unflattering coverage (20% positive vs. 35% negative).
When it came to Democratic candidates, the picture was more negative. Again, neutral stories had a slight edge (39%), followed by 37% negative and 24% positive. And, in marked contrast from the rest of the media, coverage of Obama was twice as negative as positive: 32% negative vs. 16% positive and 52% neutral.
But any sense here that the news channel was uniformly positive about Republicans or negative about Democrats is not manifest in the data.”
From the Washington Examiner, a study of the political contributions made by the mainstream media.
Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.
By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.
[…]The data on contributions by broadcast network employees was compiled by CRP at the request of The Examiner and included all 2008 contributions by individuals who identified their employer as one of the three networks or subsidiaries. The data does not include contributions by employees of the three networks who did not identify their employer.
The CRP is the organization behind OpenSecrets.org, the web site that for more than a decade has put campaign finance data within reach of anybody with an Internet connection.
President Obama received 710 such contributions worth a total of $461,898, for an average contribution of $651 from the network employees. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain received only 39 contributions totaling $26,926, for an average donation of $709.
And more from a study done by the radically leftist MSNBC.
MSNBC.com identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.
The donors include CNN’s Guy Raz, now covering the Pentagon for NPR, who gave to Kerry the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq; New Yorker war correspondent George Packer; a producer for Bill O’Reilly at Fox; MSNBC TV host Joe Scarborough; political writers at Vanity Fair; the editor of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition; local TV anchors in Washington, Minneapolis, Memphis and Wichita; the ethics columnist at The New York Times; and even MTV’s former presidential campaign correspondent.
And here’s a bit from that same article about The New Yorker:
The last bulwark against bias’s slipping into The New Yorker is the copy department, whose chief editor, Ann Goldstein, gave $500 in October to MoveOn.org, which campaigns for Democrats and against President Bush. “That’s just me as a private citizen,” she said. As for whether donations are allowed, Goldstein said she hadn’t considered it. “I’ve never thought of myself as working for a news organization.”
Those are the facts.
Now consider this column from Brent Bozell, which explains the difference media bias makes to political intelligence.
The Republican presidential contest is picking up steam. Obama is consistently polling under 50 percent. This one’s a toss-up, and in the thick of it is the Fox News Channel. It’s not just their role in hosting and vetting the candidates. It’s their role as the chief villain in the eyes of liberal Democrats struggling to push their version of the “truth” about Obama.
Jon Stewart rhetorically asked Chris Wallace about Fox on “Fox News Sunday, because he thought he knew the answer: ”Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
In the real world – outside Stewart’s smug bubble – this is garbage. A 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center asked media consumers three questions: which party was in control of Congress (Democrats), who was the secretary of state (Condi Rice) and who was the prime minister of Britain (Gordon Brown).
Let’s document how the viewers of “Hannity &Colmes” were better informed than Stewart’s “Daily Show” gigglers on basic political facts. Hannity viewers beat Stewart’s on the Democratic majority (84 percent to 65 percent correct answers), Condi Rice (a dramatic 73 percent to 48 percent gap) and Gordon Brown (49 percent to 36). Overall, as a percentage getting all three questions right, Hannity won 42-30.
And more: New York Times cites abortion advocates as neutral sources.
The real issue
Back to Lizza’s piece against Bachmann. I think I know why Lizza would make so many mistakes. It’s a common problem with people in the lef-wing media. They don’t know any Christians, they are afraid of Christians, they have no idea what Christians believe, and especially no idea why Christians believe what they believe. And what’s more, they don’t want to know – they seem to prefer to write the lies rather than pick up the phone and get their facts straight. I’m not a journalist and even I know that!
The real issue is that the secular leftists in the media do not want Christians to participate in politics, just Mohammed didn’t want people of other religions participating in his politics in his theocracy. The political ideology of the secular left is so strong, and so brittle, that to even hear a difference of opinion is impossible for them. The will to cut off all debate with name-calling is too strong. While Christians are busy organizing and watching formal academic debates with top atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, the mainstream media learns about Christians by watching “Jesus Camp”, “Dogma”, “Inherit the Wind”, and “Footloose”. There is a gap of understanding here – they aren’t being educated in views that they don’t hold. They aren’t serious about learning both sides to controversial issues.